Meet the new Castle & Key Distillery. | Photo by Sara Havens
Meet the new Castle & Key Distillery. | Photo by Sara Havens

The site of the former Old Taylor Distillery in Frankfort, Ky., has gotten a lot of press ever since Lexington businessmen Will Arvin and Wesley Murry decided to purchase the decaying 113-acre compound last year and name Marianne Barnes, formerly of Brown-Forman, its master distiller. Barnes has received numerous accolades for her bold move to help steer the 129-year-old distillery back to its bourbon-making heyday, and she is now the first female master distiller in Kentucky at least since Prohibition.

Finally, she now has a name much shorter than “the distillery formerly known as Old Taylor” — and that new moniker is Castle & Key. (If you’re unfamiliar with the historical and territorial aspects of the bourbon industry and are wondering why she couldn’t just call it Old Taylor, even though Col. E.H. Taylor Jr. built and distilled bourbon at the site, his namesake is now owned by Buffalo Trace/Sazerac Company.)

Marianne Barnes | Photo by Julie Cauthen
Marianne Barnes | Photo by Julie Cauthen

Barnes says even though the bourbon won’t bear his name, she still plans on honoring the traditions Col. Taylor brought to his methods — including Bottled-in-Bond products.

“The core of Colonel Taylor’s vision with bottled-in-bond was building a relationship of trust with his consumer, providing a literal guarantee of bourbon’s authenticity and, by extension, quality,” says Barnes in a press release. “Our goal is to embrace and enhance that vision, creating products and sharing the story from the plow to the bottling line.”

Barnes invited Insider out to the enormous distillery last June and eagerly shared her vision of restoring the past while focusing on a bountiful future. From a breathtaking castle that sits on site to beautiful botanical gardens to the largest rick house in the world, the distillery has sat dormant for 44 years but will soon come to life thanks to Barnes, Arvin and Murry.

“Under the rubble and overgrowth, there were 100-year-old buildings that were still structurally sound and architecturally astounding, and while a number of people seemed to have passed on this hidden treasure, we knew it could be revived to make great spirits,” says Arvin in the press release.

castleSince good bourbon requires many years of mingling with barrels, first up for the Castle & Key brand will be a botanical recipe gin made from Kentucky-grown sources this year, then a rye whiskey by 2018 and, finally, a traditional style Bottled-in-Bond bourbon to honor Taylor’s legacy. They hope to be open for tours by the end of summer.

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Sara Havens
Sara Havens is the Culture Editor at Insider Louisville, known around town as the Bar Belle ( She's a former editor of LEO Weekly and has written for Playboy and The Alcohol Professor. Havens is the author of two books: "The Bar Belle" and "The Bar Belle Vol. 2."